Playwright-poet perfects the art of getting by


Resourcefulness, thy name is David Daniels. Has been for quite some time.

In 1999, Daniels found himself homeless and refused to let it dent his fender. He remained employed as assistant manager at a Barnes & Nobles in downtown Minneapolis, couch hopped, house sat, sublet, and did the roommate thing.
For three years.

Without getting the least bit unraveled, much less panicked.

For good measure, he maintained an artistic career, releasing the CD Talkin’ Roots (it sold out two printings). And he performed spoken word around the Midwest, most often in the Twin Cities at venues like Patrick’s Cabaret, Acadia Café, and short-lived hot spot Surcumcorda, which led to his doing a mini-tour of Holland.

Today’s economy doesn’t roll off his back, but he does take it in stride, a veteran of hard times drawing on experience to make it through and, indeed, prevail. As of this writing, Daniels is just back from his Denver stomping grounds, where he launched his artistic career and every so often returns to standing-room-only gigs.

It started with his play Malcolm X Meet Peter Tosh, which premiered at Cedar Cultural Center in the Twin Cities and moved to Mercury Café in Denver. Ensuing works include Kolorada…A Western Tale, I and I Roots Story and I, Edgar Hoover. This October, Daniels was in Denver with his newest work, Kowtown.
How does he prevail?

For one, by the time he found an affordable apartment in St. Paul he had, along with a stable work history, more favorable references than you can shake a stick at from landlord, roommates and friends.

Secondly, Daniels is the original maverick, eschewing mainstream sensibility, holding down a taxpaying job only because he has to. He even has a work titled Black Hippie Chronicles.

David Daniels’ lifestyle has been key to his survival. Asked how much being a hippie helped, he readily states, “Being part of a community [made] the difference – the difference, at times, between having a roof over my head or not. My friends came through, and I’m always grateful to them.”

These days, Daniels holds down a day job at Northern Sun and occupies a modest, handsomely appointed St. Paul apartment. He looks back on just how he made it through homelessness, reflecting, “I’m thankful I have something, ’cause a lot of folks don’t have anything.”

Having landed an affordable home and keeping employed, each a remarkable feat in this day and age, current hard times are a relative cakewalk for Daniels. Retail being what it is, one reasonably speculates whether Northern Sun, which has put up a good fight the past year or so, will succumb to economic odds.

Like any sensible person, Daniels has a backup plan on the drawing board, ready to put into effect should the need arise. Experience taught him to stretch a buck like a rubber band.

He shops a little less often at his favorite food shops, but he does get to them. And makes it last. “I stretch meals. It’s not hard to make one meal that holds me over three, four days.”

He’s always been a bargain hunter for threads and has no trouble finding nice stuff for free at clothes closets. “I don’t go out as much. Which is probably a good thing, because I’m getting older at age 54.”

On top of dealing with the nuts and bolts of life, he again heightened his profile. Following the activist thread of his artistry, Daniels has taken it from the stage to politics and got himself elected vice chair of the Fourth Congressional District for the GOP in St. Paul.

What is a Black man, period, much less a guy who, dreadlocks and all, adheres to a Rastafarian creed – what on Earth is he doing in the Republican Party? Advocating and, every chance he gets, advancing Libertarianism, for one: “The only role the government should have is in self-defense of the nation from attack.”

David Daniels prevails against hard times. And keeps his life interesting in the process. One of a kind.

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